Wonder why government contracting officials are so hard to get in touch with sometimes?
Frustrated with leaving phone messages and sending emails to Contracting Officers (referred to as COs; or, on military bases, sometimes known as KOs), only to never have them answered?
Trying to figure out the most effective way to communicate with a CO?
Every day, businesses trying to do business with the government are confronted with questions like these. Clients of the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) tell our counselors they are perplexed and frustrated when a CO takes so long to get back with them … or fails to get back at all. Understandably, this lack of responsiveness makes businesses wonder whether they have fallen into disfavor with the government or whether they are wrong to even try to communicate with government COs.
Obviously, there are a lot of possible reasons why someone does not respond to a phone message or an email. Without engaging in speculation, here are a couple of facts you should take into consideration:
- Communication Timing– There are periods of time when communication with a government contracting officer is appropriate, and other times when communication is inappropriate. Generally, it is appropriate to communicate with a CO during both pre-solicitation and post-award periods. However, it may be inappropriate to initiate contact with a CO after the comment period on a solicitation has closed or when bid proposals are under evaluation. Individual solicitation documents usually spell-out the proper communications protocol, so look for guidance there.
- Workload – The number of federal contracting officers has grown only slightly in the last 14 years, but the annual dollar value of contract awards has grown from about $200 billion to nearly $1 trillion. To put it another way, ten years ago there was one contracting officer for every $300,000 in federal contracts. Now, there is one contracting officer for every $50,000,000 in contract awards. Because contracting officers are busier than ever, vendors should be especially well-prepared and succinct in their communication efforts.
Without making any excuses for anyone, you certainly should take these factors into consideration the next time you can’t get a government contacting officer to return a phone call. Keep your contacts professional and to-the-point, be “appropriately aggressive,” and don’t take non-responsiveness personal.
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